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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Andersen - What (Father) Does Is Always Right - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Andersen's statue in New York city's Central Park
For this Sunday's celebration of Father's Day I wanted a bit of whimsy and found the perfect story only to discover I posted it last year!  "The Seventh Father of the House" by the Norwegian collectors, Asbjornsen and Moe is a lot of fun and I still recommend it, but today's story is also Scandinavian, although some debate calling the works of Hans Christian Andersen folklore.  He is an excellent creative writer, but many of his stories draw upon folk roots and Andersen's introductory sentence to the story makes that clear.

Then there's the problem translating from the Danish Andersen's title or lead character.  Two excellent Danish authors, Erik Blegvad and Erik Christian Haugaard, each included the story in their anthologies of Andersen and translate it as Father.  Haugaard's book is Andersen's complete works, including Andersen's own notes to his published "booklets", as the stories came out in small collections and in 1861 the author called it a "Danish folk tale that I heard as a child and have retold in my own way." Those same notes give some interesting views by Andersen on the critical response to that collection:
It has been both said and written that this collection was the poorest I have yet produced, and yet among its pages are to be found two of my best fairy tales: WHAT FATHER DOES IS ALWAYS RIGHT and THE SNOWMAN.
(The Snowman was given here five years ago.)

Unlike Blegvad and Haugaard, other authors give the title and lead character as either The Old Man or as The Good Man so, when I ran across it as "Father", I was surprised as I'd known the story for a long time.   However you translate it, the tale is about a rather foolish man with a wife who clearly loves him unconditionally.  His swapping for progressively less valuable items puts it in the category of being a "Noodlehead" tale.  (For people wanting to attribute gender characteristics, be sure to look at the two earlier Noodlehead stories given here.)  My own husband sometimes complains about how film and television make fathers always appear stupid.  I wonder if this is to counteract the old television show, "Father Knows Best"?  The Noodleheads in this story are both male and female, but the story's gentle touch moves us bouncing along to the end.

Excellent as the Blegvad and Haugaard translations are, they're not public domain.  The 19th century translations by Mrs. H.B. Paull, were chosen by Lily Owens for her 1984 complete collection of Andersen because she "found it the most pleasurably readable."  Unfortunately only one illustration is given and the artist's signature is hard to decipher, but may be Hans Richter, even though the style is not typical of his better known more avant-garde work.  On a blog that is no longer active,, but saved by a site called Encyclopedian Dictionary, many illustrations are given, including the large one possibly by Richter.  Unfortunately even the illegible artist signature is not given.  That blog dating back to 2012, however, does the story a great service, so I, too, want to insert them into the story.
Here are two versions of that ending

All of those, and Mrs. Paull's translation, definitely have him as an Old Man, but I'd recommend borrowing Twelve Tales / Hans Christian Andersen by Erik Blegvad as he not only translated, but did a loving job of illustrating the story and both Father and Mother show good natured Noodleheads, but also show age is not a factor in being called a "noodlehead."

By the way, for all those lovers of Hans Christian Andersen, while prowling for this article I found a very interesting site, Hans Christian Andersen: Annotated Web-o-graphy with lots of links to visit.

The story is so good natured, the storyteller needs to bounce it along in a similar way.  This illustration gives you a visual reminder of all the swaps.
Swap your stories wisely by Keeping the Public in Public Domain, whether it be Father's Day or any day, since it's always a good day for a story.
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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